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Fordham University to Sponsor Victor Hess Day


In 1938, Nobel laureate Victor Francis Hess emigrated with his Jewish wife from Vienna to the United States to escape Nazi persecution.

Hess ended up at Fordham University, where he taught in the Department of Physics until he retired 1956.

This week, the University honors Hess’ legacy with two special lectures on Thursday, April 14 on the Rose Hill campus. “Victor Hess Day” coincides with the 100th anniversary of his discovery of cosmic rays and the 75th anniversary of his Nobel award.

“There are only a few universities in the country who have had a Nobel Prize winner on their faculty,” said Martin Sanzari, Ph.D., assistant professor of physics and the event organizer. “This anniversary presents a great opportunity for us to celebrate it.”

Mark Alford, Ph.D., professor of physics at Washington University, will deliver a keynote lecture on the area of Hess’ expertise: cosmology and particle physics. Sanzari will speak on Hess’ scientific achievements and give some detailed accounts of the research that Hess did while a member of the Fordham faculty.

The event begins at 3:30 p.m. in Freeman Hall, Room 105. Sanzari will speak 3:50 p.m., followed at 4:10 p.m. by Alford. For further information contact Sanzari.

A native of Austria, Hess earned a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Vienna in 1906  and later worked at the Physical Institute in Vienna, where he first began his seminal research in the field of radioactivity.

By conducting atmospheric readings while making several ascents in a hot-air balloon, Hess discovered cosmic rays—high-energy radiation originating in outer space. This breakthrough opened the door to many new discoveries in nuclear physics and earned Hess the 1936 Nobel Prize in Physics.

In 1958, the University presented Hess with its highest honor, the prestigious Insignis Medal, which is awarded to “Catholic leaders for extraordinary distinction in the service of God through excellent performance in their professions.”

“Much of the university community is not aware that Fordham had a Nobel Prize winner,” said Sanzari. “We would like to share that fact, and we hope that a cross-section of faculty, students and administrators from all departments will join us to hear Hess’ story and his science.”


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